Emergency Brexit continuity bill passed by Scottish Parliament

Written by Tom Freeman on 22 March 2018 in News

The Scottish Government is likely to face a legal challenge after its alternative Brexit bill is passed by MSPs

Scottish Parliament - Anita Gould

MSPs have passed emergency laws designed to protect devolved areas after Brexit.

The UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Legal Continuity) (Scotland) Bill got the backing of 95 MSPs, while the Scottish Conservatives and Lib Dem Mike Rumbles voted against.

The legislation will come into effect if the Scottish Parliament decides not to consent to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill in Westminster to prevent what ministers in Scotland and Wales have described as a “power grab” of powers repatriated from Brussels.

The Welsh Assembly also passed similar legislation yesterday.

Scotland's Brexit Minister Mike Russell said he still hoped the laws would not be needed as a deal could still be struck between the UK Government and the devolved administrations.

“Despite the almost unanimous calls for change to respect the principles of devolution, the UK Government has yet to agree amendments that could get the consent of this Parliament or the Welsh Assembly.

“Hence our alternatives—the continuity bills. Our bill will ensure that Scots law continues to operate effectively following withdrawal should the Parliament be unable to consent to many provisions of the UK’s bill.”

But Scottish Conservative Adam Tomkins said he expected the bill to be challenged in the supreme court because it “trespasses” on matters reserved to Westminster.

“Competence is not a question of democracy; it is a question of legality, and the only place that can rule authoritatively on the legality of this legislation is the United Kingdom Supreme Court,” he said.

He added: “The bill is known informally as the continuity bill, but its real purpose, which has been exposed time and again during the rushed proceedings, is not continuity; its real purpose is to sow the seeds of division within the United Kingdom. Its real purpose is to create legal chaos and legal confusion.”

Liberal Democrat Tavish Scott described Tomkins’ speech as “one of the worst that I have ever heard in this Parliament”.

“We are here because the United Kingdom vote on Brexit happened and because the Governments across the UK have yet to reach agreement. I profoundly hope that the continuity bill will become redundant at some stage and that we will see no more of it,” he said.

Labour’s Neil Findlay said his party gave the bill “cautious support”.

He said: “Throughout this process, Labour has sought to play a positive role. However, at times, we have had to drag information from the minister and the Government, and at other times, we have had to act to rein in the minister’s ambition to grab powers from this Parliament and take them into ministerial offices.”

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